Specialist doctors in Brisbane fear a proposed strategy to limit the movement of clinicians between hospitals “when Covid hits” will leave hospitals alarmingly understaffed.
Hospitals across Queensland are preparing to manage a spike in Covid-19 cases when border restrictions ease ahead of Christmas.
Annastacia Palaszczuk revealed a road map this week to allow limited travel from domestic hot spots at 70 per cent vaccination coverage in Queensland from November 19, with restrictions eased further when the jab rate hits 80 per cent on December 17.
The Premier said the increased movement will lead to infections soaring to about 400 cases a day, with internal emails confirming Brisbane’s Prince Alfred Hospital (PAH) to be assigned as the major virus treatment facility.
In an email to staff this week, seen by NCA NewsWire, the department director of anaesthesia and acute pain management, Dr Martin Wakefield, said the “modelling indicates that (there) will be an increase in Covid patients, with a surge possibly late December into January”.
“The first phase involves moving anaesthetic support, both consultant and junior staff, to ICU as we open more ICU beds,” he said.
“Elective surgery will decrease. In all likelihood, when Covid hits, clinicians will not be able to work across institutions/hospitals.”
One anaesthetist, who spoke to NCA NewsWire on condition of anonymity, said the response would mean “work just won’t be able to get done” given the frequency of doctors who work across different hospitals.
“If they tell doctors they can only work in one hospital, they (doctors) will probably give their public jobs the flick because imagine being told that your one day a week PAH job means you can’t work the other four days anywhere else,” they said.
Another specialist said Queensland Health proposed the same restriction to staff at the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020 and when concerns were raised about the risk of understaffed facilities, authorities appeared unprepared for a significant reduction in available care.
But Queensland Health told NCA NewsWire the plan was only in its infancy and staff would be consulted at various hospitals and sectors further on how to best handle a surge in cases ahead of Christmas.
“Detailed information about each stage of the road map is currently being worked through,” a spokesperson said. “More information on other restrictions will be provided in due course.”
On Wednesday, chief health officer Jeannette Young told reporters in Townsville it was critical the state boosted its vaccine rate before borders are opened, to limit the shock to health systems.
“If you want the most functional hospital you can in your community, so you don’t have to delay any non-urgent care such as surgery or outpatients, then get vaccinated,” she said.
“If you don’t and you stay at that 50 per cent level that some communities are at, or even 60 or 70, then there are going to be tough decisions that your health service will have to make about prioritising non-elective work and Covid.
“But don’t bring that on your own communities and families, just get vaccinated and those tough decisions won’t need to be made.”
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